How To

November 24, 2011

Silver Efex Pro 2 For Color Photos



ilver Efex Pro 2 from NIK Software is a leading plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture for black and white photography bringing tremendous help to convert color photos to black and white with a wide collection of settings to let the photographer achieve the result he wants. It really offers the digital darkroom equivalent to the wet darkroom most photographers still do remember.

But there is more to Silver Efex Pro than black and white photography. The wide collection of settings allows also post processing color photos. I do use this plugin mainly on color landscape photos to render more dramatic skies and bring out more details and this is what I would like to show here.

Out of camera photo (Kwando River)

Within Photoshop, call the Silver Efex Pro plugin which creates a layer where it will put the results and presents the user interface with a preview. The user can choose among given presets on the left and adjust the parameters on the right or define own presets. These presets and parameters do act on the whole photo. Silver Efex Pro brings also a technique called “Control Points” to adjust settings locally. Simply press “Add Control Point” and put the point where it should affect the photo. Then, adjust the area on which the control point takes effect and adjust brightness, contrast, structure and set black and white levels. On the initial photo, I selected the preset “Full Dynamic (harsh)” and added 2 control points in the clouds to increase contrast and reduce brightness:

Silver Efex Pro 2

With the OK button, the plugin takes all settings and renders the resulting black and white photo in the layer it created before opening. This black and white photo will act as luminosity layer for the color photo underneath by changing the layer type to Luminosity:

Silver Efex Pro 2

The effect looks in general over processed, so use the opacity setting to achieve the desired effect:

Black and White result as Luminosity Layer

The resulting post processed photo:


Here is another example I achieved with Silver Efex Pro on a Eurofighter photo taken during an airshow in the rain. I used the plugin to increase the contrast of the plane and bring out the contrails above the wings:



While the main usage of Silver Efex Pro is for black and white photography, I would not want to miss it when processing color photos. If you have photoshop, give this plugin a try, a free trial is available. Nik Software does also offer a vast choice of tutorials and helds webinars on a regular basis to show and explain their excellent tools.

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About the Author

Dominique Schreckling
Dominique Schreckling

IPA Staff ID: 06617 • I live in the french speaking part of Switzerland, near Lake Geneva. I am a freelance photojournalist focusing mainly on events photography (music festivals, sports events and trade shows) and travel photography. An overview of my photographic work over the last few years can be seen under

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